Leinster sealed a bonus point 33-22 victory over Gael Force at Stirling RFC on Wednesday evening to conclude their British & Irish Cup participation for this season on a high note.
BRITISH & IRISH CUP – POOL A: Wednesday, March 10
GAEL FORCE 22 LEINSTER 33, Bridehaugh, Stirling RFC
Scorers: Gael Force: Tries: Michael Doneghan, Tom Bury, Ross Samson, Stefan Dreyer; Con: Craig Jackson
Leinster: Tries: Shane Monahan 2, Tom Sexton, Leo Auva’a, Brian Kingston; Cons: Ian Madigan 4
Shane Monahan bagged a brace of tries, with Tom Sexton, Leo Auva’a and Brian Kingston also touching down – and out-half Ian Madigan kicking eight points – as Leinster weathered spells of pressure in an entertaining game in the Scottish midlands.
Leinster dominated the early exchanges and a superbly weighted offload from Old Belvedere number 8 Auva’a found Eoin Sheriff whose 20-yard break asked questions of the hosts’ defence.
But an infringement at a scrum led to the game’s first place-kicking change, though Gael Force out-half Gregor Hunter’s kick fell wide of the upright after 11 minutes.
A David Moore break instigated a spell of Leinster pressure and some good forward play earned the visitors a penalty in the 18th minute, which Madigan elected to kick to touch metres from the Scottish line.
The out-half’s judgment was spot on because from the subsequent lineout, flanker Sheriff and then hooker Sexton came close before eventually barrelling over for the opening score of the game, which Madigan converted, to give Leinster a 7-0 lead after 20 minutes.
A superb, gliding 60-yard dash from Michael Keating almost reaped his side’s second try, but the Academy back was denied inside the Gael Force 22.
Almost immediately, the hosts scrum half Ross Samson breached the Leinster rearguard and the ball found its way to Glasgow Hawks number 8 Grant Strang before winger Michael Doneghan touched down in the corner.
Hunter’s conversion fell wide, thus reducing Leinster’s lead to two points on the half hour mark.
As half-time approached, a Madigan penalty fell narrowly wide, after a yellow card was awarded to Force flanker Fraser McKenzie for a repeated failure to roll away at a ruck.
But right on the stroke of half-time left winger Tom Bury scored in the corner to push the hosts into a 10-7 half-time lead after Hunter’s conversion effort missed the posts.
Leinster began the second half strongly and a Keating foray, in a move which also involved Kyle Tonetti, found Monahan who drove over to help Leinster regain the lead in the 47th minute.
Madigan’s excellent conversion sailed through the posts to give Leinster a 14-10 advantage.
The former Ireland Under-20 international then turned provider as another Leinster break almost reaped their third try of a bitterly cold evening under the shadow of the historic Wallace Monument.
And in the 56th minute Auva’a touched down to extend Leinster’s lead to nine points. With Keating in the sin-bin for not releasing at a ruck, Gael Force saw an opportunity to attack and Samson touched down for the home side’s third try.
The see-saw nature of the game continued with St. Mary’s College winger Darragh Fanning displaying real pace out wide as Leinster pushed for their fourth try which replacement Kingston completed after a brave block down.
Madigan added the points and completed his fourth successful conversion when Monahan crossed for his second try under the posts in the 79th minute.
Despite a late Stefan Dreyer score for the hosts, Leinster held on to finish their inaugural British & Irish Cup campaign with a bonus point win.
GAEL FORCE: Craig Gossman; Michael Doneghan, Steven Aitken, Steven Wilson, Tom Bury; Gregor Hunter, Ross Samson; Lewis Niven, Sean Crombie (capt), David Young, Neale Patrick, Robert McAlpine, Fraser McKenzie, Stefan Dreyer, Grant Strang.
Replacements used: Craig Jackson for Hunter, Ross Gibson for Patrick (both 64 mins), Ross Lemon for Gossman (70), Dougie Orr for Young (72), Sean Kennedy for Samson (79), Garret Walsh for Crombie, Ryan Jenkins for McAlpine (both 80).
LEINSTER: Michael Keating; Darragh Fanning, Shane Monahan, Kyle Tonetti, Matt Healy; Ian Madigan, David Moore; Ronan McCormack, Tom Sexton, Jack McGrath, Trevor Hogan (capt), Ciaran Ruddock, Eoin Sheriff, Jordi Murphy, Leo Auva’a.
Replacements used: Arthur Lyons for McCormack (43 mins), Jason Harris-Wright for Sexton, Jason Risdon for Murphy (both 60), Max Rantz-McDonald for Healy (65), Brian Kingston for Tonetti (65-68, blood sub), Martin Dufficy for Fanning, Michael Noone for Auva’a (both 74).
Referee: Michael Tutty (RFU)